Mean-variance inefficiency of CRRA and CARA utility functions for portfolio selection in defined contribution pension schemes

by Elena Vigna; CeRP WP N. 89/09


We consider the portfolio selection problem in the accumulation phase of a defined contribution pension scheme in continuous time, and compare the mean-variance and the expected utility maximization approaches. Using the embedding technique pioneered by Zhou and Li (2000) we first find the efficient frontier of portfolios in the Black-Scholes financial market. Then, using standard stochastic optimal control we find the optimal portfolios derived via expected utility for popular utility functions. As a main result, we prove that the optimal portfolios derived with the CARA and CRRA utility functions are not mean-variance efficient. As a corollary, we prove that this holds also in the standard portfolio selection problem. We provide a natural measure of inefficiency based on the difference between optimal portfolio variance and minimal variance, and we show its dependence on risk aversion, Sharpe ratio of the risky asset, time horizon, initial wealth and contribution rate. Numerical examples illustrate the extent of inefficiency of CARA and CRRA utility functions in defined contribution pension schemes.

Keywords. Mean-variance approach, efficient frontier, expected utility maximization, defined contribution pension scheme, portfolio selection, risk aversion, Sharpe ratio.

JEL classification: C61, D81, G11, G23.

September 2009

WP_89 (PDF file 514 KB)